1. Technology

How do you protect images on your Web pages?

By December 21, 2007

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borivath asks:

If I want to protect a picture on my website. I put some pictures on my website, but I want to allow my readers only to read them and not copy them.

My Thoughts:
If you have images that you absolutely, under no circumstances, can afford to be copied, then the only sure way to prevent that is not to put them online. No right click JavaScripts can be defeated, Flash can be captured with a screen capture program, and even watermarks can be removed (with difficulty). But most of us don't put up spy photos or other vitally important images that must never be stolen. We'd just like to make it hard for people to take our stuff.

The most common way to protect images is to put up a no-right-click script on the page. This prevents people from right-clicking and choosing "Save Image As...". A fancier way to protect your images is to shrink wrap them. Then when someone does right click on it, they don't get the image they're expecting. Finally, you can watermark your images so that if they do steal it, everyone knows it's from your site.

More Resources

What Do You Do?
How do you protect your digital images? Post a comment on this blog entry, or answer borivath directly in the forum.

December 21, 2007 at 9:02 am
(1) GerryW says:

Jennifer is right; there is no guaranteed way to protect web pages content; including images. Content, by design, is displayed using applications (browsers, server-side applications, …). Any of these processes can be replicated by the knowledgeable ‘hacker’ to snag and replicate content. The only thing you can do is protect them from the novice using the techniques (and others) described in the article. If you copyright your images you do have legal recourse to go after those you find who are using your images but the likelihood of that being successful or worth your effort is questionable (successive reproductions often have copyright notations removed). Lower resolution images (those that still look well on web browsers but are not the quality originals) or images reduced from full size can make the effort less than worthwhile for the snaggers. Regards … GerryW

December 22, 2007 at 10:53 am
(2) Shane Knudsen says:

Personally, I absolutely detest those “disable right-click” scripts. I use the Mouse Gestures extension in Firefox, which allows you to quickly navigate pages and some other handy things without having to mouse all the way up to the toolbar. The thing is, they’re activated by the right click. The disable right click script screws that up. The silly thing is, you can easily turn off JavaScript. In addition, a simple Ctrl+S saves the page and dumps all the images into a nice, convenient folder. Shrinkwrapping is totally rendered useless by this.

It’s the same problem the HD-DVD and BluRay people have had. They don’t want people copying their discs, so they encrypt them. Unfortunately, if your customers are going to view the movies, you have to give them the key. As soon as they find that key in memory somewhere, they can rip the movie.

In your case, you have to give people the images somehow if you want them to see them, so by definition, they can get the images if they want to.

December 22, 2007 at 1:17 pm
(3) Judith G. says:

It’s been stated many times already, but I think it can’t be emphasized too often – don’t place an image online if you want to absolutely guarantee that someone else cannot copy it. With that said, I personally don’t have any images that I would classify in such a way.

Like others, I also dislike no-right-click scripts. I prefer to use CSS to display a particular image with an “empty” image placed on top with HTML. This way if somebody tries to save the image, he or she will only save the empty image. Of course, there are ways around this method. But it adds a layer of difficulty stealing without removing right-click functionality or resorting to flash.

December 22, 2007 at 2:53 pm
(4) Steve says:

There is nothing you can code into your web page to prevent people downloading the images without preventing the browser from being able to display the images. The browser needs to download the images before it displays them so by the time the person sees the images they already have a copy on their computer. Of course finding it and copying it to a more permanent location is doing things the hard way. An HTML/CSS/JavaScript protection can be easily overcome to allow the images to be easily copied to a location of the viewer’s choice. Any user JavaScript that they have attached to IE, Firefox, or Opera to assist with that process always runs last after the page has loaded and so overrides the protection the author built into the page.

The only solution that has any effect whatsoever is therefore to build the protection into the image itself. That way once they have obtained a separate copy of the image (which requires at most 5 mouse clicks if you configure your browser appropriately) they still have to remove the protection from within the image.

December 23, 2007 at 7:02 am
(5) CJ says:

Locks just keep Honest People out… So it goes!

I usually ask, “What will happen if people copy the pics from this site?”

I see some sites with the safety precautions built in and I ask, “Why? Nobody will really want these pictures, and if they do take one, how will it impact the owner of the graphic?”

Unless you are selling wedding photos, if people take your pictures, is it going to impact revenue? But, even if you are selling wedding pictures, you usually are selling the print. If someone wants to grab a couple low res copies from your site, again, “How much of an impact will it really have?” Almost always the answer is negligible.

December 24, 2007 at 12:18 pm
(6) ms says:

you don’t. content is meant to be free. there is nothing the search engines won’t find for someone anyway.

December 27, 2007 at 7:44 am
(7) gerry says:

I couldn’t care less if people want to nick my pics. But I’d be very annoyed if they used them comercially (not at all likely, I know). I’ve occasionally borrowed a pic from another site, after asking permission and giving a link.

January 2, 2008 at 4:51 am
(8) Tim says:

We had a problem with another site copying our content. As they clearly had little experience, I added Javascript that disabled the right click, replacing it with a welcome message. This did stop them.

August 5, 2009 at 3:44 pm
(9) Chris Zeals says:

We had a problem yesterday as well when the local CBS Station decided to use our picture of a snake in their newscast (I belive it was one of the anchormen who lives here in Andrews who decided to use the picture in their newscast) Hopefully, this infomation will help us protect our images and prevent that clown (Byrant Mondale*) from stealing our images again!!!

* Anchorman’s name has been changed.

August 19, 2010 at 6:09 pm
(10) David says:

Only disable right click if it was an image that was right-clicked, using jQuery:

$(document).ready(function() {
$(this).bind(“contextmenu”, function(e) {
if (e.srcElement.nodeName == ‘IMG’) {

August 27, 2011 at 9:48 am
(11) Subrata says:

How to Protect Images
and not Drag the Picture. web address bar.

September 4, 2010 at 11:13 am
(12) Vanillaman says:

Right click > Save/Save As is not the only method of copying someones work. Alternatively, they can just as easily press Ctrl C and Ctrl V to paste it. Or, as already suggested, screen capture your whole page???

September 30, 2010 at 5:41 pm
(13) Inspira Web Design says:

There is always a way around it. I’m finishing up an art-related site right now where my clients paid thousands of dollars to get the rights for these images. I wish there were a foolproof way to protect them, but the reality is, if it’s online, someone will take it. Guaranteed.

September 5, 2012 at 6:29 pm
(14) Stuart says:

I have explored creating video slide shows of my images and displaying portfolios on YouTube . Using variable transitions it slows a thief down. They can still screen dump but pausing for each image will be a pain. My pictures arnt worth that hassle plus the quality will be poor

January 23, 2013 at 1:34 pm
(15) Wendy says:

How about saving your images on a CD or DVD, mailing it to yourself, and never opening it? This is something an instructor taught me years ago when I was in college.

I’m not at all sure if this still works or not. It’s supposed to be a cheap way out of the legal copyright motions.

January 24, 2013 at 1:48 pm
(16) Jennifer Kyrnin says:


That is still a good way of proving you own the content. But it doesn’t help you if you try to sue someone for infringing. You can only sue if you’ve registered your copyright. In the United States, at least. I don’t know about other countries.

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